One thing you’ve got to hand to the SAG Awards TV voters, they’re loyal to a fault. When it comes to the categories for individual acting, once they find someone they like, they stick with them.
Each year a host of veterans, not to mention a steady stream of series newcomers, is forced into the cold by familiar, entrenched names in comedy and drama alike.
So amidst the universal mourning for the “Breaking Bad” and “30 Rock” finales, there must have been a certain amount of secret glee among thesps. After all, the spot Bryan Cranston occupied in male actor, drama, for five consecutive years is now open for business, as are Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey’s in the comedy division, where they competed, and usually triumphed, a total of 15 times.
Opening up Cranston’s slot is particularly tantalizing, since the drama field is crowded indeed. Steve Buscemi of “Boardwalk Empire” (four consecutive noms; two wins) and “The Newsroom’s” Jeff Daniels (two noms) saw their series end this year, but remain very much on the scene. Another pair of last year’s nominees — Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones” and Kevin Spacey of “House of Cards” — had banner years.
So who’ll jump in? James Spader as Red Reddington on “The Blacklist” is a fan favorite. He was eligible last year, but the show had just kicked off mere weeks before ballots were due. Michael Sheen of “Masters of Sex” and Liev Schreiber of “Ray Donovan” also enjoyed solid freshman seasons last year, but didn’t make the cut in a crowded field. Since then, the buzz around their shows has only grown louder.
Patrick J. Adams of “Suits” joined the fabled five three years ago, and his canny, streetwise performance has gotten even stronger since.
And then there are the newcomers: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson on “True Detective” should break in. And don’t forget Clive Owen, so powerful on “The Knick” and Dominic West on “The Affair.”
On the distaff side, drama hopefuls would be gunning for Jessica Lange (three consecutive “American Horror Story” noms; one win) and Julianna Margulies, who unaccountably dropped out last year after four noms and two wins for “The Good Wife,” but is almost certain to contend again now.
Of last year’s favored five, only Anna Gunn of “Breaking Bad” is out of the running. Claire Danes (“Homeland”) and Kerry Washington (“Scandal”) will surely make a showing, but Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey”) is less certain.
The door could still be open for powerhouse performers who’ve gotten off to stunning debuts: Viola Davis of “How to Get Away With Murder” and Tea Leoni for “Madam Secretary,” or Lange’s “AHS” returning co-stars Kathy Bates and Sarah Paulson. And don’t rule out Lizzy Caplan (“Masters of Sex”) who scored an Emmy nomination earlier this year.
To get nominated for comedy actress, you’ve had to get past perennials Fey, Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”) and both Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”). But of that group, only Fey is now out of contention, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus entered the race (and won) for “Veep” last year.
So can Mayim Bialik (nominated in 2013 for “Big Bang Theory”) repeat to hold off Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”), Lisa Kudrow (“The Comeback”), Allison Janney (“Mom”) or Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”)? This’ll be a race to watch.
As for male actor, comedy series, since 2009 there have never been more than three (and a couple of times, only two) repeat nominees from year to year. This has permitted numerous comic notables to represent at least once, including Chris Colfer (“Glee”), Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”), and Louis C.K.
Last year only Baldwin, Burrell and Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) repeated from 2012. With “30 Rock” gone, the current field would seem to be wide open for return noms for Don Cheadle for “House of Lies,” C.K. and the “Modern Family” guys. Other possibilities include Ricky Gervais in “Derek” and Tony Hale for “Veep.”
It’s tough for a first-timer to crack the SAG Awards field no matter what, so Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”) may have to cool his heels. But Jeffrey Tambor has earned raves for his turn as a transgender woman in “Transparent,” and that buzz could carry him to a nom. Or William H. Macy could benefit from his Showtime series, “Shameless,” also switching from drama to comedy this year.
Yet ours is hardly the most difficult era for thesps to crack the SAG Awards derbies. How about 1994-2001, when the team of “NYPD Blue” and “ER” grabbed an astonishing 50% of all lead actor, drama, nominations (and 50% of the wins)? Or better yet, 2000-05, when actresses from only three shows — “Will & Grace,” “Sex and the City” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” — picked off 20 out of 30 slots.